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How health literacy helps women thrive in the workplace

84% of US employers are planning to invest in women’s health and wellbeing in the next 3 years, recognizing that improved gender diversity in the workplace has a big impact on the bottom line, and that benefits can help them achieve better parity by helping women thrive.





Some trendy benefits include one on one coaching for new moms, fertility financing, flex time and remote work, and on demand lactation support and breast milk shipping services. We applaud those efforts, as they are a critically important piece of supporting women at work with diverse needs and family structures.


But there is a step we missed: The need to get education and information for women across the lifespan, not just for women planning to become pregnant or who are new moms. We need to get all women the care they need at the right time.


That’s really important, because women lack the information they need to stay healthy today for a range of needs, from basic gynecological care to chronic conditions that uniquely impact women. In fact, more than 90% of women’s health challenges go unaddressed in the US today because women do not know where to go, do not know what to do, or feel shame and embarrassment, even with the provision of insurance. It’s an epidemic that exists among women of all socioeconomic and educational levels.


Studies show most women do not have basic health literacy and do not know the extent of care provided by their health plans, leaving many challenges unreported and preventative care not used. For women in menopause, only 1 in 5 women have ever been referred to a menopause specialist who need it.¹ A pregnant woman today is 50% more likely to die than her mother, but a recent study from the CDC found that three-in-five pregnancy-related deaths can be prevented by better knowledge and subsequent care for things like pre-eclampsia, compounding the tragedy. ² In just one study, more than 40% of women thought mammograms weren’t covered by insurance when they had breast cancer symptoms, even though their plans did cover the test.³


But that doesn’t mean that women don’t want to get the critical care they need. 73% of women feel it’s very important to them to be knowledgeable about keeping themselves healthy but 77% of women don’t know what to do to stay healthy.


Endometriosis is a classic example. Endometriosis is a gynecological condition that is prevalent in 10–15% of American women with symptoms including debilitating pain in the pelvic area and other parts of the body, heavy and persistent menstrual bleeding, spotting between periods, pain during sex, nausea and vomiting, severe headaches, and persistent fatigue. ⁴ In fact, 84% of women with the condition don’t seek consultation with their healthcare providers right away, are not taken seriously, or have had conditions incorrectly labeled as simple period pain or psychological. Once a woman is in a cycle of care, many report it can take 10–12 years to make a correct diagnosis and get on the right treatment.


And it’s not just endometriosis, it’s for normal and healthy women experiencing menstruation, fertility, pregnancy, post-birth care, midlife health, menopause, and more.


But we can better support the women in our companies to be empowered to get the right care. When armed with robust, accessible education that doesn’t require women to dig deep into complicated medical literature, we can change the way women access and consume health information. Through live and recorded classes, engaging content, and the ability to ask real questions, in real time we can give women the information they need to figure out what the right care or experts might be, what tools, services, and products can help, and how to tap into existing health plans for better comprehensive and ongoing care. In turn, that information also helps women advocate for themselves if they are turned away or are in a cycle of referrals without answers.


At Hela Health, we focus on getting women the tools she needs to better manage her care from medical experts. Our medical team focuses on empowering women with information that is based on clinical evidence and based on key data, driven guidelines across specialities from leading institutions including Harvard Medical School, Beth Israel, and leading fertility clinics across the country.


As employers, we can’t afford to keep spending huge sums of money on insurance plans that go underutilized and providing benefits that don’t also address structural needs for real, lasting change. So together, we can make a change in this new decade to help our workforce access the right tools, at the right time, to be happier, healthier colleagues, friends, and community members- both in and out of the office.



[1] AARP, What Doctors Don’t Know About Menopause, https://www.aarp.org/health/conditions-treatments/info-2018/menopause-symptoms-doctors-relief-treatment.html

[2] https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2019/p0507-pregnancy-related-deaths.html

[3] Berkman ND, Sheridan SL, Donahue KE, et al. Low Health Literacy and Health Outcomes: An Updated Systematic Review. Ann Intern Med. 2011;155:97–107. doi: https://doi.org/10.7326/0003-4819-155-2-201107190-0000

[4] Maria Cohut, Ph.D., Why do doctors under diagnose these 3 conditions in women?, Medical News Today, https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/324659.php#1

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